Monday, November 24, 2014

Preschool Lab: Kitchen Science

With a big American food holiday coming up this week, I thought kitchen science would be a fun topic for this month's preschool lab. I have some thoughts about this program, but first I'll tell you what we did: 


Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Book: The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha Vamos, illustrated by Rafael Lopez (Charlesbridge, 2011). In this cumulative tale, a farm maiden and her barnyard friends are making arroz con leche - rice pudding - and each animal has something to add to the pot (cazuela!). If you're not familiar with the Spanish words included in this brightly-illustrated story (I was not!), there's a pronunciation guide in the back of the book and I'd recommend reading it out loud a couple of times before you read it to your group. My audience was not Spanish-speaking, so I would occasionally repeat a Spanish word in English. Cumulative books are great for helping children learn new vocabulary. 

Felt Rhyme: Five Red Apples 

Book: Soup Day by Melissa Iwai (Henry Holt, 2010). On a cold snowy day, a little girl and her mother make vegetable soup. This story takes them through all the steps, from buying ingredients at the market to chopping and cooking the vegetables to waiting for it to cook to serving it for dinner. This is another great book for introducing children to new vocabulary and I like that it clearly shows the steps you follow in cooking. 

Felt Activity: Healthy Foods. I put up the MyPlate and talked very briefly about the different kind of foods that we eat. I passed out the different felt pieces and went around the plate, calling up the vegetables, then the fruit, then the grains, then the protein, and the dairy. This is a good activity for learning new vocabulary words. Children also practice listening, following instructions, and approaching an adult who's not in their family. 

Book: Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2002). This fun rhyming story is perfect for this time of year. While Bear hibernates in his den, his animal friends take shelter from the storm, one by one contributing snacks and food for a wintry party. Sharing books with rhyming words helps children hear that words are made up of smaller sounds. 


Pasta Shapes: I put out small piles of pasta in different shapes and prompted kids to sort them and count them. Sorting and counting are both math skills and playing with shapes helps with the ability to recognize letters. 

Bean Measuring. I purchased two large bags of pinto beans and put them out with all kinds of measuring cups. Measuring is a math activity that young kids can help with in the kitchen. 

Play Food and Felt Board. I also put out a set of play food and dishes and I let the kids explore the food set on the felt board. Imaginative play helps develop vocabulary (you'd be amazed at what words you find yourself using as you go through imaginative play with a child!) and self-regulation skills like taking turns and sharing. 

My thoughts:

So, I had the best of intentions with this one and the kids did have fun. They mostly stayed at the beans station and the play food station. 

However, when I thought this one up I had wanted to include a lot more science-based stations and, due to a super-heavy programming schedule this month, that just didn't happen. My thinking was to give parents some ideas for fun things to keep their kiddos occupied while they potentially spent a lot of time in the kitchen this week. SO, if you want to include more explicitly STEM-based stations (using stuff you'll find in the kitchen!), here are ideas for you: 

You can search "preschool kitchen science" on Pinterest for TONS of additional activity ideas. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I Didn't Check My Email (and Lived to Tell the Tale)

Vacation! No emails in sight...
This past October, I had the pleasure of taking Marge Loch-Waters's online youth services management class and I wanted to post about one small thing I'm trying to put into practice:

Your email does not have to own you. 

On last week's vacation, I made a pact to myself that I would not check my work email. I'm often so tempted to log in, even just to delete the hundreds of ads I know will be waiting in my inbox. But even if it's mostly ads, there's always something I need to respond to. Maybe it's something I can respond to or forward right away, maybe it's something I need to star and come back to later. But logging in when I'm supposed to be off work just lets it into my head. 

And, especially in a career when SO MANY OF US struggle to find a balance between life and work, it's important to know that you can draw a line. I still thought about checking it at least once a day while I was away, but I made a conscious decision not to log in, not to let that email encroach on my vacation time.

Guess what?

Everything was fine. My staff held down the fort. They knew that if something important came up, they could call me. And when I finally did log in to my email, out of over 100 emails, only about 20 of them had information I needed or items I needed to respond to.

Don't let your email run your life (or ruin your vacation)! Keep these things in mind:

  • It was pointed out in my management class that no one expects an instant response to an email. If something that urgent is happening, someone will call or text you.
  • You can set an auto-response so that anyone who does email you will know who to contact if they need a response more quickly. I always make sure to set mine up, particularly because I will sometimes get school collection requests emailed directly to me and those can be time-sensitive.
  • No one minds you taking a vacation. If someone does mind, she's probably not a nice person. You're probably being conscientious about scheduling your vacation time to create the least disturbance and to make sure everything is covered or breaks are well-advertised. You earn that time off as part of your salary. Take it!
  • And you need to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your patrons. The burned-out, no-rest librarian can all-too-easily turn into the bitter, resentful librarian and not the welcoming, flexible paragon of customer service that your patrons deserve. If you're checking in twice a day while you're on vacation, are you really getting the rest you need? 

Even now that I'm back to work, I'm trying to wean myself of the habit of checking my email first thing in the morning and constantly throughout the day. Yes, I like the idea of being available to teachers and patrons and colleagues so that working with me is super easy and awesome. But, as suggested by one of my management classmates, I'm making an effort to check off a couple things on my to-do list in the morning before I check my email. I'm trying to consciously close my inbox when I'm not actively working on email, which results in a lot fewer interruptions. 

So, take stock of your email habits. If you feel like your email is owning you, maybe it's time to rethink some things. 

(Super thank-you goes out to Marge Loch-Waters and all of my awesome YS Management classmates! I'm finding lots of ways to implement what I've learned in that class!)

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Booktalking Librarian

I've posted before about how our booktalking programs have exploded this year. We're now in the schools more than ever before and I'm LOVING it! Booktalking is truly one of my favorite things to do and I'm so glad to have the chance to do it more!

I have not been posting about my specific booktalking programs, in part because I've been super busy, but also because most of the books I'm sharing are Newbery-eligible and due to confidentiality guidelines, I don't feel right posting about them. But last week, I realized that almost all the titles I had brought to one school were not eligible, so I wanted to share with you how my booktalking program typically goes!

This particular visit was to 3 fourth grade classes at one of our local elementary schools. They combined all three classes in one room, so I only needed to do the presentation once. Some schools prefer to have us visit each classroom individually, which we are happy to do. Usually if we're doing multiple presentations, I try to send two people together so one person doesn't have to talk for 45+ minutes straight.

For this group, the teachers had asked me to bring nonfiction books, especially books that showed problem solving and cause & effect. This tied in with the unit they are doing in their class. Here's what I brought and a little about how I booktalk each one:

When Is a Planet Not a Planet?: The Story of Pluto by Elaine Scott (Clarion Books, 2007).

This is a book about Pluto, but it's also a book about how scientists find out information about space and the fact that scientists can be WRONG. In fact, scientists have been wrong lots of times, all throughout history! When I booktalk this book, I emphasize to kids that when I was their age, when their teacher was their age, Pluto was a planet! We were taught that there were nine planets in the solar system. We had never even heard of a dwarf planet! This gets lot of nods from teachers. At the end, I let them know that scientists are always finding out new information. Who knows what they'll discover next? And I bet there are some future scientists in this room, so who knows what one of YOU might discover next?

The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand New Colors by Chris Barton (Charlesbridge, 2009).

This picture book biography features two brothers who invented new colors. I tell the kids that one of my favorite kind of books is a book that tells me about something I never even thought to wonder about - just like this book! I read the first two spreads and talk a little bit about what Day-Glo colors are - usually several kids are wearing Day-Glo colors, so I can point that out. And I show them one of my favorite things about this book - the illustrations start out black & white in the beginning and as Bob & Joe begin experimenting, more and more color is added in until they have their breakthrough and I show them the spread that's entirely in Day-Glo colors.

Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs by Michaela Muntean (Scholastic, 2012).

Stay is the story of ten dogs, yes, but it starts with a human. I tell the kids Luciano's story, how he was hurt at his job performing in the circus and he was determined to be able to perform in some way. He had the idea to train dogs to be in a circus act, but Luciano didn't want just any dogs; he wanted the dogs that nobody else wanted. Then I share the story of Penny with them (you could choose any of the dogs to share). This is an easy sell to dog-lovers (many kids are dog lovers!)

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson (Scholastic, 2012).

The Titanic is always a familiar subject to kids. It fascinates them! Some may have seen the movie, some may have read other books about The Titanic, but this book is different from any book I've ever read about The Titanic. Deborah Hopkinson uses real survivors' accounts to bring this story to life. Reading this book is like sailing on the ship alongside them. There are plenty of facts and anecdotes to share to entice kids to read this book, but I read a part from the beginning where Jenny, the ship's cat, decides to take her kittens off the ship, "one by one down the gangplank" before it sets sail from Southampton. It always gives me chills!

I Survived Five Epic Disasters by Lauren Tarshis (Scholastic, 2014). * The stories in this book had been previously published and are collected here for the first time. *

Here's another easy sell, particularly if you have fans of the I Survived series in your midst (chances are you do). While the I Survived books are fictional, here we get five true stories from actual survivors of disasters. When I booktalked this one, I mentioned the Children's Blizzard, the Boston Molasses Flood, and the Henryville tornado (which happened just a few miles from here in 2012!). This is a great pick for kids who love action and adventure stories or who are interested in learning about real disasters.

When my staff and I go booktalk, we always bring bookmarks with all the book covers, titles, and authors so that the kids can remember what book they heard about that sounded good. A lot of times, kids will bring these bookmarks in to the library. We keep extras at our desk, so if they didn't bring theirs with them, they can easily say "I have a bookmark like that!" and we'll know they're from a booktalking class.

We keep a record of what everyone's booktalking in our Evernote account, organized by school and grade, so it's really easy to look up what books a kid might have heard about at their school. If we're doing a longer program with more than 5-6 books, we'll make a book list handout for the kids. And we always give these to the teachers, too! I think our teachers enjoy and benefit from the booktalks just as much (sometimes more!) than the kids.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Day in the Life of a Children's Manager

It's been quite awhile since I posted about a day in the life of a Children's librarian. Since I recently took an AMAZING online class on youth services management, I wanted to choose a day when I have several manager things to do. It certainly varies a lot from day to day, but here's one day in the life of a Children's Services Manager:

8:45am - I arrive at work and debrief with one of my staff members about what had happened over the weekend, etc.

9am - 12pm - I work at the Children's reference desk. I pull the holds list, pull a School Collection, and work on an ALSC Blog post in between answering questions about:

- Choosing a poem to recite for a school project
- Bob books
- Dinosaurs
- Where people vote at the library
- Name tags for storytime

11:30am - One of my staff members arrives back from last week's vacation, so I catch her up on what's been going on.

12:00pm - Off desk, I get booktalking stuff together for later in the day.

12:15 - 1:15pm - Lunch time!

1:15 - 1:45pm - I email out reminders for next week's booktalking programs.

1:45pm - I leave for this afternoon's booktalking program. I booktalk five books to a fourth grade class at one of our local schools. I visit them every month!

2:35pm - I'm back at the library; I put my things away and record my statistics from the booktalking program.

2:50pm - I clean off my desk (mostly?) and prepare for a staff evaluation meeting. I've already written the evaluation, but I get all my ducks in a row and make sure I have my notes for questions I need to ask and things we need to touch base on. We're doing annual evaluations right now.

3:30pm - I meet with one of my staff members to go over her annual evaluation.

4:00pm - Our meeting is done; I polish up the evaluation and add the goals that we discussed together and get that printed off for my employee to sign and add comments if she wishes. The original signed copy will go to our director and I make copies for myself and my employee.

(Side note: I once worked for a library that refused to give us copies of our staff evaluations, even when I asked for one. It was the weirdest thing! So I always make sure everyone gets a copy!)

4:30pm - I print out a PO to take up to the Business Office and deal with an order of books that's come in.

5:00pm - As manager, I'm here late tonight covering a program for one of my employees who had to be off. It actually doesn't happen that often, but I make sure that I am familiar with all our programs being offered so I can step in if need be!

I start getting ready for tonight's program (Books and Building, a.k.a. Lego Club!). I pull the books I'm going to read, set up tables, and set up our arrow sign pointing to the room we'll be in.

5:20pm - I work on a book order.

6:00pm - I tackle my email inbox. Oy.

6:30 - 7:30pm - Time for Books & Building! We do this program weekly and share books in some way each week - it might be one or two readalouds or a few brief booktalks. After our books, we break out the Legos and have some time for building!

This week, I read Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen (Candlewick, 2014) and Ugly Fish by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Scott Magoon (HMH, 2006). We have a nice crowd of about 13 kids (great for us in the evening!) and everyone has a fun time. The kids are SO imaginative and they mostly like to help each other out, looking for specific pieces, etc.

7:45pm - I've got the room all cleaned up and reset to how we'll need it for the next morning and it's been a long day, so I head for home!

And that's just one day in the life of a children's librarian! If you want to see more, check out the posts I've tagged with "day in the life". One thing I LOVE about being a librarian is that each day is different!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Changing Spaces at the ALSC Blog

Today, I'm over at the ALSC Blog writing about some big and small changes we've made to our Children's Room in recent years in order to make our collection more useful to our patrons.

Here's a little preview (our brand new display furniture!):